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WE/ME in epedagogy design » Blog Archive » Reviewing the seminar “Pedagogical Media Theory and Game Based Learning”

Wey-Han Tan

Reviewing the seminar “Pedagogical Media Theory and Game Based Learning”

Concept and structure

This term – winter 2008 – my seminar focussed on basics of media theory and their application to the understanding, use and creation of games in an educational frame. While my last seminar dealt mainly with learning theories and motivation, the view turned to media in general, in culture, communication and creation.
Taking a closer look at ‘New Media’ – networked digital media – isn’t simply learning about new channels for educative content. It may be a change from a receptive, interpretative, centralised form of communication to a configurative, collaborative, decentralised one. Both its’ (at this time) predominant traits, digitality supporting its role as recursive media-simulating metamedium, and networking supporting its role as global social medium, may influence the way we perceive information, knowledge and learning.
This seminar had a focus on ludic simulations, known as games and toys. These share some traits with digital media, but also may shed light on two inherent antagonistic sides: Rule-bound compliance and stability, as well as an appropriatable and configurable space of possibilities.

The seminar was divided into three parts:
First, theories of media and cognition by Marshal McLuhan, Scott McCloud, Niklas Luhmann, Gregory Bateson, Heinz von Foerster and Bertold Brecht, spiced up by examples and questions. What defines a medium? What medium is suited for which kind of content? How does a medium influence one’s cognition and culture?
Second, theories of game, play and gamedesign by Gregory Bateson, Brian Sutton-Smith, Roger Caillois, Johan Huizinga, Gonzalo Frasca, Chris Crawford and Kurt Squire, with samples abound. Questions here are: What defines a rule based game, what free playing? What can be ‘learned’ by playing, seen from a media theoretical point of view? How can games support educational intentions?
Third, project work including the conceptualisation, realisation and reflection of an edcuational game.


Participation was moderate, compared to 2008 summerterm’s “Games, Play and Education”, with about 22 students from Hamburg and one student from Helsinki (via Skype).
Since I received strong positive feedback on the project-oriented structure of the seminar, but this time also had to cover a wide range of media theory, I stocked up the amount of texts to read, often dividing the students into two groups to read – and present – two different texts each session. In hindsight this didn’t work out as planned, since many texts – like Luhmann, McLuhan or Bateson – were both important for the conceptual understanding of media, but also quite hard to grasp. Discussion among students were also hindered. Future seminars will be held with one (or less) text per session, but accompanied by a small list of questions to direct the students’ attention to core concepts. Smaller or easier texts can still be read in multiple groups, as long as the subject is closely related to provide for a lively controverse discussion.

What I deemed quite successful for the topic of media theory was the example of diverse non-mainstream-media to represent strengths and weaknesses of media, like micro-content-videos (commoncraft-show), comics (McCloud), common seminar situations, and (digital) game examples. Translating educational content into an unfamiliar form provided by game requirements also proved inspirational for the students, who came up with six quite diverse projects, ranging from dedicated analog card-games to shooter-modifications to design-concepts.
Remarkable: Last term there were only digital game projects (one excellent one lost due to HD-crash!)of mostly analytical or conceptual nature; this time there was a dominance of analog game projects, which, due to their nature as handicraft-projects, got finished, and were testplayed by the seminar. I hope I can put them up in our Wiki.

There was also the experiment to use a shared wiki, with Ralf and Christina working on related or quite disparate topics. Creating (an, any) order to prevent the wiki slipping into chaos is quite the challenge, especially if the scrutiny of order and categorisation themselves is one of the main topics of the seminars. We’ll see how this’ll turn out over the next terms.

One Response to “Reviewing the seminar “Pedagogical Media Theory and Game Based Learning””

  1. WE/ME in epedagogy design » Blog Archive » Summer term 2009: “Games, Play and Education” (2nd Edition) Says:

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